Monday, December 7, 2009

The Tapestry Shop, my 2010 release from Five Star, is based on the life of Adam de la Halle, a thirteenth century musician. Adam is best known for his secular plays, especially his Jeu de Robin et Marion, which figures heavily in my historical novel.
In most pastourelles, the knight is the narrator, wielding his aristocratic power over a lower-class shepherdess. After propositioning her, he may carry her away by force. In Adam’s pastourelle, the shepherdess (Marion) takes a more active part in the play, rebuffing the advances of a persistent knight and declaring her love for Robin.
For further reading on the medieval pastourelle and its construction, see Geri L. Smith’s The Medieval French Pastourelle Tradition: Poetic Motivations and Generic Transformations.

Friday, November 13, 2009

History of Gambling

My recently completed novel, The Glass Partridge, is set in Venice during the 1600s, and because the heroine loves to gamble, I researched the history of gambling. Here is some information I gathered during my search.
Archeologists have uncovered evidence of gambling in ancient times. Knucklebones of sheep were a primitive form of dice, but a pair of ivory dice, dating before 1500 B.C. was found in Egypt, proving that the dice of today are much like those used for centuries.
Betting on athletic games at the Roman coliseum drew rich and poor alike. Later, during the Middle Ages, gambling in all its forms took place in private homes and also in public.
Before the invention of the printing press, cards were a rich man’s game, as each card was stamped from a woodcut. Later, a deck of cards was readily accessible in every tavern in Europe. When the English came to the New World, they brought the culture of gambling with them, but the Puritan-led Massachusetts Bay Colony outlawed possession of cards and dice (along with dancing and singing). Later, the rules were relaxed, as long as the game was an innocent one and no money exchanged hands.
In The Glass Partridge, the heroine goes to a ridotto, a salon for gambling and other pastimes. Ridotti became very popular in Europe, even serving as forums for the arts. Verdi celebrated the opening of his opera, Rigoletto, in the Ridotto San Moise.
In the 1800s, the Doge of Venice closed the ridotti, and they were reopened as state run casinos.
For further reading, there is a very good book by David Schwartz, titled Roll the Bones, which covers every aspect of the history of gambling in Europe and the United States.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Black Prince of Wales

Edward, sometimes called the Black Prince, appears as a minor character in my latest release, Jeanne of Clairmonde. Edward was born in 1330, the eldest son of Edward III. At age three, he was given an earldom, and a duchy at age seven. When he turned thirteen, the title Prince of Wales was bestowed on the young man, who even then was beginning to show signs of being the brave leader he would become.
References to a Black Prince have appeared in primary sources, and it is generally believed that he was dubbed The Black Prince because he wore black armor.
When Edward was thirty-one, he married his cousin Joan, daughter of the Earl of Kent. Their marriage required a special dispensation because of their close kinship, but it is generally believed they married before actually receiving the dispensation from the pope.
After winning battles with the French, Edward kept court in Bordeaux and Angoul√™me. During the struggles between England and France in what later became called the Hundred Years’ War, he proved himself to be a courageous warrior. At times he was generous to prisoners, but over time he gained the reputation of being a ruthless victor, burning towns and amassing a fortune with his looting.
At age forty, his health began to decline. Edward died at age forty-six and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Burning of the Talmud in Paris, 1242

Thank you, Joyce, for inviting me to share a historical episode with the readers of your blog today.

When I discovered that the brilliant Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg was my ancestor, the first event in his life that moved me to consider writing The Fruit of Her Hands was when he witnessed the burning of the Talmud in Paris in 1242.

The Talmud, for those who may not know, is a multi-volume work, a record of Rabbinical discussion about the Torah, Jewish customs and laws, that spanned many generations.

How would a 24-year old scholar of Meir’s obvious intelligence approach such a tragedy? We know from the elegy he wrote ― in fine, medieval tradition ― that he was devastated. He couldn’t eat, couldn’t comprehend the cruelty visited upon his people.

And why was he forced to face it? To learn why the Jews of Paris lost every volume of the Talmud to the flames, it is important to understand that Jewish-Christian relations were undergoing a significant change during this century. Until the 1240s, Christians had frankly ambivalent feelings toward them. Jews had Christian neighbors. Rather than living in ghettos, they had to wear badges or hats so Christians could tell them apart.

But the idea of the Talmud never occurred to these Christians. They thought that Jews lived just as they had during the time of Christ, that their religion remained an artifact from Temple days. As long as long as the Torah, which had preceded Christ, was the only religious document, the Christians felt the Jews would eventually be won over to the “true” faith.

But in the 1200s, Christians began to discover the Jews had not frozen in time. Instead, they had continued to evolve their religion by constant study and debate, which centered around the Talmud. Some of their knowledge of the Talmud came from converts to Christianity, such as Nicholas Donin. Donin had upset his teachers by radical beliefs and the leader of the Paris yeshiva, Rabbi Yechiel, finally took the extreme step and excommunicated Donin.

Donin converted to Christianity, became a Franciscan friar and sought revenge. He egged Crusaders on to massacre Jews while on their way to fight in the Holy Land, precipitating pogroms in Brittany, Anjou, Poitou, and Aquitaine. But then Donin sought to harm the Jews in an even more fundamental way – through threats to their sacred texts. He convinced the Pope that the Talmud needed to be examined, that it contained terrible errors and slurs against Christ himself. The Pope wrote to the kings of Europe, instructing them to investigate. And the result, in Paris, was the seizure of every volume of the Talmud and a disputation ― a religious trial ― between the Rabbi Yechiel of Paris and Nicholas Donin.

While the Rabbi Yechiel did his best, his was an impossible task. Donin convinced the French court that the Talmud was a dangerous document that deserved destruction. And so, on a bright June day in 1242, Meir watched as every volume was consumed by flame.

Christian-Jewish relations continued to spin downhill from this point, degrading into a cycle of persecution that would culminate in the horrors of the Holocaust. But Meir would recover from his personal crisis of faith through the catharsis of the elegy he wrote. Meir of Rothenberg would become the foremost Talmudic scholar of his age and would live his life in a manner that still influences our Jewish roots.

To learn more about Meir, Nicholas Donin, and the burning of the Talmud – as well as other events in Meir’s life – I’d like to invite your readers to visit my Web site at and to read The Fruit of Her Hands: the story of Shira of Ashkenaz, published by Pocket Books (a division of Simon & Schuster).

Thanks again, Joyce, for letting me stop by your blog!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Winner from Coffee Time Announced

TaDumm... Hear Ye, Hear Ye! The winner's name, drawn by my sister this time, is Missy Roth. To the rest of you, thanks for the comments, and watch this website. I'll be giving more gift certificates later for contests and comments.
Missy, please email me privately. You can reach me from my Author page on my website. Just click the feather. Congratulations!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Win a $25 Gift Certificate

Hi Readers: On Friday, Sept. 18th,I'll be blogging all day on Coffee Time Romance and More, about various subjects:a low-cost travel secret, the importance of conferences, landing an agent, and a blog about my new release, Jeanne of Clairmonde, a medieval romance. From those who leave a comment, I'll be drawing a name, and the lucky winner will have a $25 gift certificate for a piece of designer jewelry by a glass artisan who makes one-of-a-kind jewelry designs. Here's a sample from her website. Don't forget, Friday the 18th on Coffee Time Romance. I'll be looking for you there.

Colorado Gold Conference

Hi Readers: I just returned from a great writers' conference in Denver. The weather was fantastic and I spent a glorious weekend networking with writers and learning more about the craft. There's always something new, and at times like this, with the rapid changes in the industry and in technology, it's more important than ever to keep abreast of what's going on in our book community. As if the awesome classes on marketing and a two-part pitch workshop by an agent (where she listened to pitches and made suggestions as to how they could be improved) weren't enough, I shared a table at the bar with agents and editors. Talk about an adrenaline rush! I admit it--I'm a conference junkie, and am already looking forward to the S.C. Writers Workshop in October at Myrtle Beach. Hope to see some of you there.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I've picked a Winner!

Congrats goes out to...........TaDum...........Mary Ricksen, who wins a digital copy of Jeanne of Clairmonde from a comment left on Emma Lai's blog. Please contact me (click the feather on my Author page) and let me know what email I should use. Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

History of Hankies

Most people think of handkerchiefs as coming into use in Victorian times, but they have a very long history. In Classical Greece, a cloth like our handkerchief was called a ‘mouth cloth’ or a ‘perspiration cloth’, an item used by the wealthy.
In 1 B.C., Roman men of high rank wiped sweat with an oblong piece of linen, called a sudarium. During the Roman Empire, women began to keep cotton or silk cloths close at hand, to blot anything as unwomanly as perspiration from their brows, a constant bother while attending a festival or tournament of gladiators in a hot, dusty arena.
In the Byzantine era, at the beginning of a spectacle, the emperor dropped a white cloth, not different from today’s handkerchief, to signal the beginning of the games.
When tournaments became more civilized, frequented by knights and squires in a more restrained atmosphere, a combatant would wear a lady’s cloth to show the favor of an admirer. Renaissance women referred to the personal item as a ‘napkyn’. When I was a child, my mother tied our church offering (coins) in one corner of our handkerchief when we went to Sunday School so we wouldn’t lose the offering before the plate was passed.
I’d love to hear from any readers about any “handkerchief” memories they may have, whether serious or humorous.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I've Chosen a Winner!

Thanks to everyone who went to Night Owl Romance and left a comment. I don't know how other authors choose a winner. Last time I did this my daughter drew a name. She isn't here for this one, so I wrote down the names, then shuffled the little papers. COLLEEN, you came up the winner. When I clicked on your name I couldn't find an email so I hope you read this post.
YOU'VE WON A DIGITAL COPY of Jeanne of Clairmonde, my medieval romance. Congratulations! And thanks to everyone who visited my blog. Watch my website for more events and contests, and in the meantime, happy reading!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rengency Calling Cards

Calling cards were a considered more than an accessory during the Georgian, Regency, and Victorian eras. A gentleman or lady always carried them, and would give their card to the footman who answered the door, who would then announce their visit to the gentleman or lady of the house. They also used cards to inform others that they had arrived in town. A lady would wait in her carriage while her groom took her card and handed it in. The card was then presented to the lady of the house, who decided whether or not to receive. If the lady was 'not at home', she was rejecting her visitor. A reciprocal card may be given to the caller, but unless it was formally presented, she had no apparent desire to continue the acquaintance. If, however, a formal call was returned, followed by a formal call, the visiting lady could entertain hope for the relationship.

Gentlemen often place their addresses on their cards. According to an etiquette book of later in the century, the address of town house and main seat were included in the corners-- one in each corner. A married lady naturally placed her married name on her card, such as Mrs. James Jones. Days and times for “at home days” were also engraved upon cards.

Quality calling cards were made from a high-quality paper, often plain as ornamentation on a card was considered to be poor taste until later in the 19th century, and were engraved. They were kept in beautiful cases, which during the Regency era, were primarily of filigree, leather and tortoiseshell, but later in the century became more elaborate; ivory, tortoiseshell and woodwork. Late in the Victorian era, they were sometimes painted with views of castles or scenery. A gentleman’s card case was slightly smaller than a lady’s, since he had to carry it in his pocket.

Visits were most often made in the afternoon; as a general rule, new acquaintances between 3-4pm, frequent acquaintances between 4-5pm and close friends would after 5pm. Visits from acquaintances other than close family friends lasted no more than 15 minutes and their conversations seldom deviated outside of one's health and the weather. The custom became more and more elaborate as the century progressed, but the tradition of calling cards has lasted, evolving into business cards, which are seldom used outside of business.

Friday, August 14, 2009

And the Winner IS....

Congratulations fo to Skhye Moncrief in Texas who has won a digital copy of Jeanne of Clairmonde. Skhye, I'll be sending it this weekend so watch your mailbox. Happy reading!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Medieval Dance

Most of our information about medieval dance comes from fragmentary sources such as extant manuscripts and a few illuminations, leaving us to speculate on any form of dance steps that may have been used. From what little is known, the carole was most likely the form familiar in courts as well as at rural gatherings. This dance was probably a simple form of round dancing, where the dancers joined hands and sang, moving in a circle.
From Chretien de Troyes, the French poet, we know there were other forms of dance. In a wedding scene, written during the twelfth century, he says, “Maidens performed rounds and other dances, each trying to outdo the other in showing their joy.” What these other dances were remains a mystery, with the exception of references to the estampie.
A troubadour, Raimbaut de Vaqueiras, may have written a Provencal song to fit the tune of an estampie he heard played by two jongleurs, which would set the date of this dance in the twelfth century. However, the earliest examples of instrumental pieces called estampies date from the 13th and 14th centuries and consist of both monophonic and polyphonic structures.
With so little information as to early medieval dance, we are left to speculate on the actual dance steps used, but we can be sure the people of the early Middle Ages found a way to express joy in their lives. From this writer’s perspective, I’m also certain that even with an open ring of dancers, two lovers would find a way to come together, even if it was across a bit of dance floor with only a sly wink or the touch of a hand.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Facts about Sedan Chairs and Litters

Varying modes of transportation have been used over the centuries. In pagan times, gods and deities were transported through the streets of Egypt and the orient, and later, in ancient Rome, litters (lectica) were used to carry the elite, and the Vestal Virgins. Gradually, litters evolved to something more fancy, and in the 1600s sedan chairs, a box-like contraption for one person, became a common mode of public transportation, and a familiar sight in London.
Sedan chairs were carried by chairmen, and after dark, the chair was preceded by link-boys, torch bearers who lit the way through the darkened streets. Upon arrival at the passenger’s house, the torches were snuffed out in link extinguishers, an ornament that looked like a giant candle snuffer attached to the house or gatepost.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, chairs stood in the main hall of well-to-do families, so the lady could be taken in and out with her feet never touching the dirty street.
In Bath, sedan chairs had the right-of-way. Chairmen would call out to pedestrians, "By your leave", in order to clear the way. People backed against the wall to allow free passage. A trip inside the city cost approximately six pence, and to rent a chair for the day would cost the passenger four shillings.
Benjamin Franklin used a sedan chair until the late 1700s. When hackneys came into general use, sedan chairs gradually faded from history, but some richly appointed examples have been preserved in museums. The one that belonged to Queen Charlotte now resides in Buckingham Palace, a testimony to the grandeur of yesteryear.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Superior Scribbler's Award

Wow! I'vebeen tagged for the Superior Scribbler's Award, and I need to thank Donna Hatch for that honor! I've been buried in edits lately so haven't blogged as much as I like, but the edits just went back to my editor so now I can keep on top of things. Here's the award. Isn't she cute?

Now I'm passing the award on to some of my blogger friends whose blogs I like.
This is how the award works. It's easier than it sounds! If you should be so lucky as to be tapped for it, you need to post the rules on your blog, along with links to the 5 people you think deserve the award. That way we can see who else gets the award. Notify them by email so they know. You also need to link back to this blog, so you'll have 6 blog links listed. You're almost finished! Then post the logo on your website, link to Mr. Linky (I don't know how to do that yet, and have asked for guidance), and you're done.
Here is the list of the next winners:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


CONGRATULATIONS, Karen H. from North Carolina, for catching the BLOG BOUQUET!

Thanks also to all those who left a comment on my blog. This was such fun, and I hope all of you stop back. There's something new here all the time; guest authors, drawings like this, and announcements of my workshops and events. I'd love to meet all of you in person, so if you're going to attend any of my events, please drop me a line beforehand. In the meantime, happy writing and good reads to all of you.

Karen, again, CONGRATS! Please go to the Author page, scroll down, and drop me a line, including your email, so I can send you a digital download of Jeanne of Clairmonde.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stop and Smell the Roses Blog Bouquet

For the writer, a new release can be the greatest high there is, or the beginning of a shock-wave. Following the release of my latest book, I began to panic. "Me? Market?" I laughed. "Why, I couldn't even sell magazines door-to-door. I was totally out of the running for the prizes they passed out at school after the six-week campaign."
Then, slowly, the light dawned. In today's publishing world a writer is expected to help sell their books. That wasn't the case with my first book, published some ten years ago. But with my recent release, Jeanne of Clairmonde, a medieval romance from The Wild Rose Press, I've waded knee-deep into marketing. I've blogged about the war that wrenched Jeanne from her home, the conditions in a medieval prison, and the dog that the French queen (a secondary character in the story) may have owned. But there is much beyond blogging. What I learned may help other writers.
First, get a nice website. Anyone interested in your book wants to know a little about you. And a website can be a "place-holder" for links that connect you to the reader/writer world.
My next piece of advice is to go to conferences. Scour the internet for writers' conferences in your area. I just came from the Historical Novel Society conference, where I met three women who were not writers but readers. Conferences are great networking opportunities. Heck, you can never get enough endorsements for that new release!
Lastly, and probably most important, take advantage of any workshops or classes around. We can never know enough about our craft, and even if you've been writing for years, you can always carry away that little nugget which might be the very thing that makes your next book rise to the top.
You can find Jeanne of Clairmonde at The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore. For a chance to win a free download of my book, please leave a comment. My daughter will pick a winner at random. Check back in 24 hours to see if you've won.

Visit the blogs below for more chances to win a prize. Remember, winners on all the blogs will be drawn in 24 hours.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why I Read and Write Regency

When I was a youth, I read almost everything, especially sci fi and fantasy, but was always more interested in the interpersonal relationships and romances than the plot itself. I started reading Romances when I was about 14 or 15, and was immediately attracted to historicals of all kinds.

You’re going to laugh when I confess how clueless I was, but I didn’t really know what a Regency was until I started really researching it. Until then, I couldn’t have told the difference between a Regency and a Victorian. But I love historicals overall. I grew up on Little House on the Prairie books, Jane Eyre, Anne of Green Gables. Historicals are like a whole new world, totally different from the modern world in which I live. Regency in particular is fun because the manners and mores of society are so formal and lavish (unlike my reality). Besides what’s not to love about men who can dance? Not to mention that there are few things as manly as a man riding horseback or fencing or willing to engage in a dual to protect his honor. Or that of his lady love. I have a thing for medieval romances, too. Love those knights who are all about duty and honor.

Honestly, I didn’t know if I wanted to choose Georgian, Regency or Victorian until I really did my research. I discarded Georgian because I detested the white wigs and the wide panniers women wore then. I chose Regency over Victorian for a number of reasons: it was during and right after the Napoleonic war, which provides the perfect backdrop for the tortured hero still haunted by the horrors of war (my favorite kind of fictional character); it was a unique period, people were more free thinking and also their days were filled with huge, lavish parties which adds an element of fantasy or magic (yeah, still soooo not like my real life); I like the clothing styles and part of the fun of a historical is getting immersed in the ‘world’ which includes describing clothing; and a large part of my decision to go with fantasy is because it is a solid market niche which helps with marketing.

To do research, I read a lot of Regencies, but the most helpful resources are books actually written by authors who lived in that era, which is why Jane Austen is used so much by Georgian/Regency Era authors; she lived during that time, so what she writes is how things were, rather than someone’s perception of how things were. Georgette Heyer is also hailed as the "Queen of Regency" because of her uniquely believable voice. I've heard she wrote her books using the same terms and speech as her grandmother (who was born just after that time) used which is how she so easily achieved that voice. I also read a bunch of research books. And I joined an online writer's group called the Beau Monde which is for authors of the Georgian/Regency Era. The members are a plethora of information and can sometimes just answer questions, other times they can recommend sources for what members need.

In addition to the Beau Monde RWA group, some of the best sources for that era are:

The Regency Companion, by Sharon Laudermilk and Teresa L Hamlin
Georgette Heyer's Regency World, by Jennifer Kloester
Dee Hendrickson's Regency Reference Book (now on CD)
Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England, by Carolly Erickson
The Prince of Pleasure and His Regency, by J.B. Priestly

I love Regency because of all this and more. Mostly, I love it because of the men. Or at least, my perception of the men. They were all about honor and duty. They were so wrapped up in honor that they were willing to die for it. And that is a character trait I find immensely attractive.

Donna Hatch is the Author is "The Stranger She Married" and "Troubled Hearts," both available on, The Wild Rose Press, and her website,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Query letters and Books, Oh my!

Historical Fiction was Queen of the Day in Chicago this past weekend. I attended the Historical Novel Society conference, an international gathering of novelists who talked historical fiction for three days. I was in heaven. Our keynote speaker was none other than Sharon Kay Penman (The Sun in Splendour and other great books).
Our welcoming tote bags held 9 (you read that right—nine) free historicals. As if that weren't enough, anyone who took part in the Costume Pageant Saturday night received three more, from the likes of Phillippa Gregory and other famous authors. (That's me on the right in my medieval tunic, complete with alms purse.)On Sunday morning we were scrambling to mail our books home, but the bookstore kindly offered boxes, saving the day.
The workshops were awesome, as always. I moderated a panel of two agents and two other authors, titled Query Letters that Worked. The room was filled, and we had an overflow that spilled into the hallway, all authors intent on hearing how to craft a query letter that would succeed.
Now I have to come back to earth and finish revisions on my next book, The Tapestry Shop, due out in 2010 from Five Star.
Wishing all of you good reads and great writing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Guest Blogger: Masha Holl

Today I've asked Masha Holl to talk to us about the importance of having a good website to showcase our books, but her advice applies to anything we want to bring before potential buyers. It's about letting the public know about our product, but with books, we have to give our readers a taste of what's to come. I believe Masha's input will help us come to terms with that dreaded word 'marketing'.

Masha, I'll turn it over to you. Why not begin by telling us a little about yourself, then, if you would, elaborate on why we need a website, what we should consider before settling on a design, and whether or not it's wise to try do do our own as opposed to having a professional design our site.

Hello! I'm not sure who I am today. The writer? The web designer? The graphic artist? The teacher? Or just the mother whose kids are going to come begging for something any moment? It doesn't matter that the oldest is graduating today and is headed for college next fall, she still finds things that only Mom can help her with.

In the meantime, I write romantic science fiction and fantasy, create web sites, teach online workshops, and try my hand at 3-D graphics. Check out my sites here, you'll find my Wild Rose Press books and more:

or my blog:

Everybody and his brother seems to have some sort of website today. My kids have their MySpaces, Facebooks, YouTube accounts, and various other playgrounds on the Web. They're taught how to design a web page in high school. HTML, links, tags, and embedding are as common in their vocabulary as, well, um... less acceptable words (ah yes, they are teenagers).

Most of us writers, however, come from a different generation, and even those who are comfortable navigating the Web are not necessarily up to the task of building an entire web site.

Skills are one issue. Time is another. Inclination, desire, patience... There are so many reasons to do or not do it yourself...

The primary concern that we poor writers have is usually money. Should we or should we not invest in a custom-designed web site?

No, that's not how the question should be asked.

Here are the facts: if we're serious about being published authors with an audience in today's world and market, we need a web presence. In order to maintain a web presence, we need a web site.

What does it mean? What do we really need?

Is a MySpace enough? A Facebook page?

Would a poster on a bulletin wall be enough in the hard-copy world?

Social networking pages are limiting and generic. They cannot replace your personal home on the web.

However, they can be a good way to start and get your feet wet. Without spending money. While you build your real home on the Web.

So what should your personal space on the Web be?

Your web site, of course.

Why a web site and not a web page?

Because if you're an author, you'll have a site that consists of several pages, such as the front (home) page, the about me page, a books page, and maybe a links or some other goodies page.

You must start building your web presence already knowing what you will put on your site (the content). Then you can decide, at the very least, how you don't want your site to look (too dark or too light, too cutesy or too modern, too many scrolls or too many sharp angles—the design).

Now come the really hard questions. Do you have a budget? Were you going to spend any money at all on your web presence?

If you do and were, decide how you're going to distribute the money. Some if it will have to go into maintaining your site. Every year. Maybe every month.

But you may have some left over, or you may budget some extra: you can spend this on design.

Let's assume this is the case. You do have a design budget.

Should you hire a professional?

(YES! DO! I'll do it for you!)

[clearing throat] Pardon me. Completely out of order here.

Seriously, though. It's the simplest way to go: have someone else do it.

What's the downside? The worse that can happen? You'll pay for it... and you won't like it. And you won't know how to fix it.

The upside? There are certain warranties that should be included in the contract about the design and usability of the site that will protect you. And you don't have to worry about learning anything technical.

But even if you hire someone, there is a wide range of services and prices available to you, from a full design from scratch to a slight modification of a pre-made template.

In other words, you can find a free, ready-made design on the web and hire a high-school student to set it up for you as your site.

How do you know that you're creating a professional-looking, efficient, attractive website, whether you hire someone or not?

The website is your parlor: it says a lot about you, but it must be welcoming for your visitors. And not just welcoming. It must be enticing, fascinating, alluring. It must make them curious and make them want to stay. And most of all, it must make them want to read (and therefore buy) your books.

Look at other authors' sites. See which ones attract you. Find out who the creators are (hint: the name of the designer is usually in the page footer, normally as a link).

What if you really don't want to spend the money, if you're willing to do the work, put in the time and the effort?

Why not!

But it involves learning HTML and CSS (and no, I'm not going to explain this: if you're confused, I made my point). Maybe you'll want to invest in authoring software to compose your pages. You'll need to learn about design and web practices, and to get into the whole Internet thing because you may need to learn how to display book videos on your site, do a blog or at least link to one, keep your email secure, and figure out how to get (and keep) your domain name. Just because it's all there ready to be called up on your screen doesn't mean you can create it as easily as type in a URL.

But it's really not that hard. I'm doing it. But then I have fun doing it and I like spending my days at the computer and making it do whatever I want. Yeah, it's a power trip (that's important when your two teenagers are constantly undermining your authority).

The question is then: what are you willing to invest: time or money? And how much of each can you budget for your web presence? Because in today's world, you need to budget some.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Historical Books

One of my favorite books, which I stumbled upon quite by accident, is a little-known book, a curious hybrid between a historical novel and a scholarly non-fiction. The title is Wise and Foolish Kings, and it covers the Valois dynasty, kings from 1328 to 1498. Anyone writing during this period would do well to secure a copy of this wonderful book.
Remarkably, I picked it up at a library sale for $2, but to me it's worth hundreds. It covers the reigns of Philip VI (to the right), Charles the Dauphin, Louis XI, Charles VIII (below)and others. She includes interesting facts about their lives, their loves, their travels, and their foibles.
This book was translated to English in 1980, and was written by Anne Denieul-Cormier, a French historian.
Her narrative flows, her descriptions are unforgettable. You may be lucky enough to find it in a used or antiquarian bookstore.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Blog Followers

I was delighted to see that Karen Lieb is following my blog. I know her from the Florida Writers' Network , an online group of FWA members. She's a talented lady who writes both fiction and non-fiction, and in starting the network, has given Florida writers a way to reach out to other writers, to give help and get advice. There are groups for almost all genres. Maybe I'll get her to squeeze time from her busy schedule to do an interview right here soon.

Friday, May 29, 2009

In my historical romance, Jeanne of Clairmonde, Jeanne meets Queen Joan (Jeanne, in French) in the palace.
History calls this queen Lame Queen Joan, as she had a crippling disability. She was royal in her own right, as her father was the Duke of Burgundy, and her mother was a daughter of King Louis IX.
Joan married Phillipe, the first Valois king, at Reims in 1313. Chroniclers saw Queen Joan as being strong-willed and intelligent, too much so for a woman, but they had to concede that she ruled with fair and capable hands during her husband's campaigns fighting the English in the Hundred Years War.
Scholarly and wise, Queen Joan sent manuscripts to her son to read, and was also responsible for having many contemporary works translated into vernacular French.
Joan died of the plague at age fifty-five and was buried at the Basilica of St. Denis, but her tomb was destroyed during the French revolution.